Vin Ko, St. Louis CITY SC’s director of team operations, approached the museum about a possible soccer exhibit in 2019—around the same time MLS awarded an expansion franchise to the city. Smith wasn’t so sure about the idea. She didn’t understand the rules, couldn’t name any teams, and certainly didn’t know the local lore that would appeal to visitors eager to learn more about the sport’s history in St. Louis.
“I remember thinking, ‘I know nothing about soccer. This is going to be really difficult,” Smith says.
Soon after she met with Dave Lange, author of the book Soccer Made in St. Louis: A History of the Game in America’s First Soccer Capital, and Jim Leeker, president of the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame, Smith began to understand what the sport meant to the region and how the museum could pay tribute to the story. Lange, Leeker, and a long list of other local luminaries helped connect Smith and her colleagues to the key players on the local soccer scene. The resulting collaboration produced an expansive collection of artifacts, and the museum’s extensive storytelling traces the way soccer has shaped neighborhoods and cultures throughout the region.